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For an average user it's Linux Mint hands down. I recommend a LTS (Long Term Support) version. Currently that Mint 13 Maya, but version 17 (Beta) is out right now and the "stable release" should be coming out shortly.
I too migrated because of Unity and have only had one issue with a Broadcom Wireless Card which took 10 minutes to find the solution and 2 minutes to uninstall the wrong driver & install the correct driver. Not bad in my book as I've installed Mint on at least 35 machines to date without a single customer complaint.
BTW . . . in case you have a need to run XP or 7 because of Proprietory programs like Quick Books etc. RoboLinux has a "Stealth VM" program out now which not only allows Window$ XP & 7 to run "Natively" in a Virtual Machine but also converts the file system, safely stores a Full backup, and secures it against Malware attack. Even better, it move your ENTIRE C Drive, including ALL Files, Folders, Programs, and Updates in only MINUTES instead of Days. What I wouldn't give to have had that capability 5 Years ago !
And NO I'm not affiliated with RoboLinux in any way.
We deal professionally with a number of Linux distributions every day, on client machines as well as out own. Contrary to some of the comments posted here, we have not had issues with Linux Mint from release 14 on up.
Ubuntu is one of those things users either love or hate, mostly due ti the Unity interface. On that count, most of us here in our firm find it annoying. Only one Ubuntu holdout among our team. That being said, Debian-based Ubuntu has the virtue of being the best supported Linux in the field. It also is the most resource hungry, and comes with a number of security and privacy concerns. It sounds like you've already decided that Ubuntu's Unity is not for you.
A fork of Ubuntu, Mint comes with most of the Ubuntu advantages, including the software center, repositories, and drivers... With one caveat: Mint takes a more cautious approach to making changes to the OS, and genreally lags behind Ubuntu. Unless you are running new hardware that is bleeding edge, this is not a concern. It may not be as willing to play nice with some antique hardware.
Fedora is as stable as Ubuntu or Mint. Drivers for recent hardware are not as readily available as they are with Ubuntu/Mint. Software availability is more limited, and support is less intensive. For office users with an in-house support team, this may not be a problem. For home users wanting to run the latest in hardware or multimedia applications, you may find Mint more to your liking.
As for myself personally, I have all three running on my economy line Lenovo laptop with a 19" HP external flat panel attached. All three (64-bit) installed cleanly alongside Windows 7 Home Professional 64-bit. All run smoothly with the following observations:
Ubuntu 13.10 and 14.04 LTS is noticably slower that Mint or Fedora, and will not run Wine for Windows apps without slowing to a crawl.
Mint 16 is the fastest of the three, and runs Wine and Steam games flawlessly. There are a few tweaks and customizations designed for Ubuntu that Mint doesn't like, but these are minor. The interface is most familiar to long-term Windows users.
Fedora 20 is fast and efficient. It does not like USB WiFi devices at all, and software choices are limited. Watching DVDs and finding multimedia codecs can be problematic.
Since you already dislike Ubuntu, your best options are Mint and Fedora. Both are well designed and rarely problematic. Which works better for you is a personal choice based on your preferences and intended use. I have all three. I rarely use Ubuntu other than to troubleshoot issues reported by clients. I use Fedora when all I will be doing is general office tasks and working with rpm's rather than deb's. 90% of the time, when I'm in Linux, I'm in Mint. For my personal abd professional uses, it offers the best combination of speed, performance, stability and usefulness.
Both Mint and Fedora are available in Live CD versions so you can test drive them to see which you prefer. My advice would be to do exactly that. Unless you are saddled with some off-brand hardware, and as long as you have at least 2 gigs of RAM, both should run fine on any reputable sustem built in the last five years or so.
Best of luck and happy Linux hunting.
I disliked Mint, it did not run properly on my laptop. If you are dual booting with Windows you may have issues because the last time I tried Mint it did not like the NTFS file format I had for the Windows partition. Several drivers that I needed for my laptop also were not available by default. As for Fedora, if SELinux is a default then I am staying away from it because the NSA was the original developer of SELinux and they are known to make deals with businesses to install vulnerabilities in hardware and software in order to make it easier to hack.
Oh, I forgot to mention, you do not have to use the Unity desktop. You can install several other desktops and try them out. The most well known alternative desktops are KDE Plasma, LXDE and XFCE but other desktops are available as well. All programs and files would stay intact and each desktop provides its own interface. I am currently using KSE Plasma at this time and loving it.
As a Ubuntu user I have never had any real problems with it however I moved to mint recenetly and my computing live has never been worse. One mint user was activly telling NEW users to format their hard drivesusing terminal and go back to Windows (say what you like about ubuntu at least the comunity are friendly and don't maliciously try to destroy newbes operating systems). The advise for xorg crashes is a joke as I have followed countless peoples so called advice to no avail. forums where people have the same problems sit unanswered and cinnamon desktop doesnt work without uninstalling gnome which is exactly what broke my os in the first place.MINT IS A JOKE piggy backing from the hard work of ubuntu. my advice is keep ubuntu install gnome desktop and burn all copies of mint before the destroy any more computers
If you liked Ubuntu and Unity is your biggest gripe you may want to try ULTIMATE EDITION 3.2 ! It's based on Ubuntu but gives you the option of Returning to multiple versions of Gnome from the log in screen. It's a large download , about 2.6 gigs + or - and includes a large number of additional apps most commonly downloaded. Some KDE apps are included which tends to infuriate some Gnome fanatics but I find it easier and faster to uninstall the ones I don't want than to Download and Install the ones I do.
Since It uses the same installer as Ubuntu you shouldn't have any problems, especially if you are already used to Ubuntu.
As a side note: if you have friends or family who express interest in Linux but fear the transition there is a Distro available called "ZORIN OS 5" which is also based on Ubuntu but has the added advantage of "Look Changer" which allows you to Mimic WIndows 7, Vista, XP, 2000, and even Mac. I find it a great Ice Breaker for newbies wanting to try Linux. The biggest drawback is that you pay ($ 20.00 + or - ) for the version which includes all those looks. the free version only supplies a few different looks.
It all depends on how you use your computer. I have 7 distros of Linux installed across internal and external hard drives. For an out-of-the-box desktop experience, I would go with Linux Mint 12. It was my day-to-day version of Linux for several years. However, I have serveral issues with Gnome3 on my Hp mini netbook. I am now back to openSUSE (KDE) as my day-to-day desktop, which was my day-to-day desktop for about 5 years. It is much easier to configure the desktop, and nothing beats YaST for a system management utility. By enabling the Packman repository, I am able to install the codecs that are not part of the openSUSE repository. For those with older systems, I recommend Lubuntu with the LXDE desktop. To keep up with the latest-and-greatest software, I still use Fedora. Just be aware that Fedora does default to the Enforcing mode of SELinux. Also, Fedora lacks the codecs for media players. I added RPM Fusion and ATrpms as repositories to expand my package choices.
Ubuntu was a pretty solid choice up to Unity. An annoying problem I've encountered is Flash causes X crashes when exiting full screen, and I thought the application lens was pretty much unusable, forcing me to return to the classic gnome interface. It is also a pain to find applications - it even took me forever to find the "control panel" for system settings - eventually locating it in the shutdown menu. Why would it be there?
I'm interested in trying out Mint. It sounds like a much better experience, based on what Jimlynch wrote. I doubt there will be too many Ubuntu users who don't look seriously at making the change.